Still rebounding from the pandemic, Delco nonprofits hope to use grant money to expand

A Share Food Program worker is seen carrying boxes. (Courtesy of Share Food Program)

A Share Food Program worker is seen carrying boxes. (Courtesy of Share Food Program)

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The Foundation for Delaware County has recently awarded more than $1.75 million in funding to local nonprofits.

During this fourth round of Impact Grants, 51 organizations received about $1.4 million and 11 organizations received more than $360,000 in second and third-year funding.

The public charity awarded the grants to address several critical areas of need in the county: children’s health and well-being, community and economic development, food security, hospice and home care, and cancer.

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With Crozer Health, the four-hospital system in Delco, shutting down multiple services at its locations, the grants addressing health care are looked at as a way to fill a widening gap.

Joanne Craig, the foundation’s chief impact officer, said that Delco “should be able to count on nonprofit organizations” to step up during “these uncertain times.”

“If there are concerns about the availability of health care services, the supportive services are twice as important now — especially if Delaware County residents need to know where else they can turn for health care,” Craig said.

Craig emphasized that the pandemic has altered the ability of many to fulfill their basic needs such as food, which is why it was at the “top of the list.”

“Food security, in terms of the social determinants of health, is incredibly important to the foundation and our Impact Grantmaking with this cycle totaled $236,500 worth of grants to organizations that are literally on the ground in the communities directly providing food and support to make sure that Delaware County residents are fed and that they are not hungry,” Craig said.

One of the nonprofit organizations that received an Impact Grant to address food insecurity was Share Food Program, which has been active in the greater Philadelphia region since 1986.

“We distribute up to 4 million pounds of emergency food relief in partnership with more than 450 community-based organizations and partner pantries. We also provide nutrition to 300,000 children across 800 schools throughout 60 school districts through the National School Lunch Program. We also focus quite a bit on making sure that we’re feeding our seniors in the region,” said Jess Bautista, the nonprofit’s director of communications and external relations.

​​In the summer of 2021, Delco approved a five-year contract for Share Food Program to become the county’s leading agency for state and federal food distribution.

Ellie Crowell, the nonprofit’s program director for Delaware County, said that they work with a network of partnering food pantries across the county every week.

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Those pantries then distribute the food directly to the community. Now, Share Food Program has something else up its sleeve.

“We just acquired a warehouse over in Ridley Township. So we’re going to be opening Delaware County’s first ever designated food bank, which is super exciting. That will allow us to really expand our operations down there,” Crowell said.

Share Food Program is still developing the building that will house the food bank, however, it already has plans to establish a home delivery service in Delco as well as a job readiness culinary training program.

“We need to invest in more training and of course, transportation needs. So this grant is definitely going to help us a great deal. Invest in those things that we need to do to make sure that we’re up and running and tackling food insecurity throughout Delaware County,” Bautista said.

Crowell said that the grant will also help Share Food Program abide by an equity-first mission. The nonprofit has been doing its due diligence to identify areas within the county that have been traditionally underserved.

Using data gathered during the process, Share Food Program now has a road map to decide where to expand its pantry network. And with the funds, the nonprofit can train pantry partners to bolster their abilities to serve as many clients in Delco as possible.

“We know that we’re seeing, for instance, a lot of immigrant communities in Upper Darby, and trying to be able to pay for our sites to have document translation on demand, 24-hour phone translation services, things like that, so that we’re just sure that they feel confident and ready to serve whoever needs food that comes in their doors,” Crowell said.

Craig, of the Foundation for Delaware County, said that for nonprofits looking to be on the receiving end of the grant process, they can try and get an appointment to have a conversation on how to help them accomplish their mission.

“We’re concerned about Delaware County nonprofits and if we’re not able to provide financial support, we can support them in other ways that will help them to grow and thrive and be able to continue to deliver the needed services,” Craig said.

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